UM Center for Integrated Research to Dig Deeper into Air Force Bases

February 22, 2017

UM staff archaeologists Justin Pfau, Brandon Bachman, Matt Nelson and Samuel White, from left, are seen at New Jersey’s Warren Grove Gunnery Range in December 2015. Others pictured are Scott Gajewski and Corry Laughlin, right. (Photo by Douglas MacDonald)

MISSOULA – The Center for Integrated Research on the Environment at the University of Montana recently expanded an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and Army Corps of Engineers to do archaeological inventories, site evaluations and cultural resource support projects on U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard bases.

“Doing archaeology on Air Force or Air National Guard bases is an exciting opportunity because it provides access to places that archaeologist don’t normally get to go to,” said Doug MacDonald, a professor in UM’s Department of Anthropology and principal investigator for five cultural projects at CIRE.

MacDonald, who has conducted numerous archaeology projects in Yellowstone National Park, says Air Force bases have many similarities to wilderness areas across the country.

“Air Force bases are often similar in the sense of their landscapes, where they are often untouched wilderness and often have never been surveyed by a professional archaeologist,” he said.

These projects are mutually beneficial for both military and the CIRE cultural team. Bases benefit by having knowledge of where these archaeological sites are located, while CIRE cultural teams benefit by conducting research and by learning about pre-history, Native American history, military history and European American history, MacDonald said.

CIRE’s cultural resources division also has a particular interest in public outreach and education, talking to public school students about its archaeology work and presenting research at different conferences.

“It’s very important that we preserve things, as well as educate the public in regards to our collective past and hope that it helps us all in this day and age to get along transculturally,” said Stocky White, a doctoral student in archaeology involved in CIRE projects.

The research will help Air Force bases know whether they have any archaeological sites and where they are located so they can avoid them during their military exercises and other activities that are part of their core mission.

CIRE also provides student-veterans the opportunity to combine their military experience with their educational aspirations. Currently, there are three veterans involved in the project who all have master’s degrees in archaeology.

“This is a nice opportunity for them to get experience both in the military and in archaeology, and many of these bases have permanent archaeologists on them, so all of these people are going to have potential work for those bases in the future,” MacDonald said.

The Department of Defense is charged with military land management. In May 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a five-year, $45 million cooperative agreement with UM to study and solve environmental and cultural resource problems across the nation.

Through the agreement, UM also assists the Corps to implement land and water ecological restoration, as well as maintenance and training for optimal management of public resources. Together, the two entities work to promote positive ecosystem health, endangered species awareness and the continuing wealth of natural resources on Air Force bases.

CIRE is a center at UM organized within a suite of investigation, research and support areas with specific roles and responsibilities strategically designed to address the particular needs of its clients. In addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense, CIRE works with agencies, foundations and private organizations to accomplish specific research goals.

For more information call Mona Nazeri, CIRE media information specialist, at 406-243-2617 or email mona.nazeri@mso.umt.edu.

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Contact: Mona Nazeri, media information specialist, UM Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, 406-243-2617, mona.nazeri@mso.umt.edu.